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How Athletes Can Deal With Depression In Life After Sports

Clive Rose / Staff

Mental health has increasingly become a significant issue in the athletic community and even around the world.

Recently, several athletes have used their platforms to talk about the struggles that they've had with it, and it has allowed people to have comfortable conversations about these problems.

The transparency around the topic is getting more real by the day and it's more alive than ever before.

Though just because more athletes are coming out and expressing themselves doesn't mean that mental health issues get easier to deal with, especially in life after sports.

Athletes still struggle and need help during their athletic career and even more after it's over.

If you ask any former athlete, they'll probably say that the battles you face on the field or on the court can seem small compared to what you might go through when you retire from the game you love.

Depression in general seems more prominent than ever because we live in a society that is predicated on comparisons...

Depression in general seems more prominent than ever because we live in a society that is predicated on comparisons, accomplishments, and living a perception that our lives are perfect when we all are far from that.

Athletes can sometimes seem like they are superhuman, but they probably suffer more than the average person in a lot of ways.

At the top levels, they are always dealing the pressure to succeed and win, constant verbal abuse and criticism from fans and coaches, plus the consistent physical stress on their bodies.

That kind of life isn’t for everybody.

But as weird as it sounds, as an athlete you begin to fall in love with it. You begin to love the adrenaline rush and it becomes a part of your everyday life. It becomes routine and as people, we all find comfort in routine and habit.

Transitioning into a “non-athlete” breaks that routine. It creates a sense of unfamiliarity and discomfort, which leads to confusion and questioning your self-worth.

For some athletes, this is usually what leads to depression in life after sports.

Athletes lose their sense of being and purpose and when you’re accustomed to being “someone” for so long, it’s really hard to be someone else.

When you’re accustomed to being Someone for so long, it’s really hard to be someone else.

I've seen it before and will probably see it again, but I wouldn't be doing my part if I didn't suggest potential ways to deal with mental health issues for athletes going through life after sports.


How To Manage Depression In Life After Sports

Partially, I don't even feel qualified to speak on this topic because I'm not a licensed therapist or psychiatrist, but as someone who has experienced the highs and lows of being a former athlete, I still feel compelled to give my opinion and advice.

1. Refind Your Purpose

You have to start by defining and finding your purpose again. For a long time, sports was probably that for you and it gave you a sense of being. In the end, it doesn't matter how much money you make during your athletic career or how long you played, you can't just retire and expect to be ok sleeping in and chilling all day. It might be cool for a few days or weeks, but after that, I guarantee you'll feel an urge to find something to do that gives you belonging in the world. Figure this out and then you'll be able to do the next step below.

2. Set Goals And Stay Productive

Once you refind that purpose, set everyday goals and focus on being productive towards that purpose. For example, if you want to write a book and start a daily Vlog, set aside 2 hours to write a few hundred words and an hour to edit and record a video each day. Stay consistent and set goals that fall in line with your new purpose. When I did this, I began to feel more uplifted and like I was working towards something bigger than just being an athlete. Daily, weekly, and monthly goals kept me inspired and motivated to move forward in life. Hopefully, it works for you too.

3. Pick Up Your Sport Again Or Something Similiar If You Can

Just because you don't play on a high level anymore doesn't mean that you can't play at all. This is one of the main reasons why athletes struggle in life after sports and what leads them to depression. They miss that sense of family, and a team setting. If you don't have an injury that limits you, go find that again. Go out and join clubs, groups, or something that brings that back to you. Everyone needs a sense of camaraderie in life; don't let retirement take that away from you.

Everyone needs a sense of camaraderie in life; don't let retirement take that away from you.


Mental Health Going Forward

There are multiple ways to combat the difficulty of transitioning into life after sports, but these are just a few ways.

For the athletes worldwide who might be dealing with mental health issues, there isn't a better time than now to speak your truth and understand that you're not alone.

There are people who want to help you get out of the dark place that you might be in.

It is so important that we continue to support one another and speak up when we aren't right or doing ok.

It is ok to not be ok, but it is a problem when you don't express that to someone.

The conversation around mental health is just now coming to light, and I look forward to seeing the stigma and fear around these issues be erased for the next generations.

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